Vivendi sells Activision stake for $8.2 billion


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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Vivendi SA is selling most of its majority stake in Activision Blizzard Inc. for $8.2 billion, giving the video game company back its independence as the French conglomerate tries to strengthen its balance sheet.

Vivendi said Friday that 429 million of its shares will be sold to Activision itself for $5.83 billion, or $13.60 per share. Another 172 million shares will be sold for $2.34 billion to a consortium of investors including Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and Co-chairman Brian Kelly, who are contributing $100 million each.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Activision makes games such as "World of Warcraft" and the wildly popular "Call of Duty" series. Vivendi acquired a majority stake in Activision in 2008 and combined it with its games unit, which included "Warcraft" publisher Blizzard Entertainment, so Activision will walk away a bigger company.

Vivendi, meanwhile, will reduce its stake in Activision to 12 percent. The French company will continue to hold 83 million Activision shares after the sale, which is expected to close in September.

Activision's newly found independence will come ahead of an important holiday season for video game companies. New consoles from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. coming out later this year are expected to fuel video game sales starting this fall and through the holidays.

Activision said in a conference call with investors Friday that this is a "tremendous" opportunity for the company and its shareholders. The move will reduce the number of available shares Activision has, which will increase the value of its remaining stock.

"Five years ago, we made one of the best decisions in our company's history when we joined forces with Blizzard Entertainment," Kotick said in the call. Since then, Activision has launched new games including "Diablo III" and the kid-focused "Skylanders."

After Friday's announcement, investors can shift their focus to Activision's games, including the upcoming "Destiny" from "Halo" creator Bungie that could be a "major hit" when it comes out next year, said Cowen and Co. analyst Doug Creutz.

Vivendi, whose shares closed up less than 1 percent to 16.07 euros in trading in Paris, said in a statement that the sale "provides the group with greater financial flexibility and creates value for our shareholders."

Part of the cash will be used to strengthen the balance sheet and maintain its credit rating. Vivendi has been trying to restructure and sell off some businesses in its diverse conglomerate, and announced earlier this week that it's in talks to sell its stake in Moroccan phone company Maroc Telecom.

Shares of Activision jumped $2.28, or 15 percent, to close at $17.46. The company's stock hit $17.76 earlier in the day, its highest level since August 2008.

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Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris and Sarah Skidmore Sell in Portland, Ore. contributed to this story.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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